Although they'll miss the postseason for the first time in 13 years, the bearded Dallas Mavericks still have some unfinished business to attend to when they visit the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday night.
The Mavericks have a chance to get back to .500 for the first time since December, and several Dallas veterans will finally be able to shave after vowing two months ago not to until they reached that record.
The Mavericks (39-40) moved closer to the break-even mark with an impressive 108-105 overtime home win that denied surging Denver its franchise-record 55th victory.
Dirk Nowitzki finished with 22 points and O.J. Mayo added 20 - including a tie-breaking 3-pointer late in regulation and another go-ahead bucket in overtime - to help Dallas win for the third time in four games.
Nowitzki certainly appears motivated to remove his shaggy beard, totaling 43 points and 18 rebounds over his last two games. He's also averaged 24.8 points on 52.1 percent shooting in his last four in New Orleans.
"Honestly, I try to play the end of the season out strong and win the next game for coach (Rick Carlisle),'' said Nowitzki, who needs 10 points to become the 17th NBA player to reach 25,000.
While the Mavericks are out of the playoffs for the first time since Nowitzki's second year, they were last at .500 on Dec. 12, when they were 11-11. Dallas has won 25 of 41 since dropping a season-worst 10 games under .500 on Jan. 9.
Now the Mavericks have a chance to break out the razors by winning two of three from Southwest Division-worst New Orleans.
Despite 25 points from Eric Gordon, the Hornets (27-53) dropped their third straight and seventh in nine games in a 96-93 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
"We are all feeling frustrated because we know we can win,'' coach Monty Williams said.
Robin Lopez added 19 points and 12 rebounds and Ryan Anderson scored 17 for New Orleans, which was playing without key starters Anthony Davis and Greivis Vasquez.
Davis - the 2012 first overall pick - will miss the rest of the season with a sprained left knee, but Vasquez is expected to return from an ankle sprain on Sunday.
Gordon, who looks for his fourth straight 20-point game, has averaged a team-best 18.5 in this series despite shooting 34.4 percent from the field. He completed a three-point play with 4.7 seconds left to lift the Hornets to a 99-96 overtime win at Dallas on Jan. 5.
Anderson has scored 19.0 per game while hitting 9 of 18 from 3-point range in his last three against the Mavericks.
Even shooting 6 for 19 from beyond the arc on Friday, New Orleans has made just 27.3 percent from that distance in its last six games.
The Hornets aren't likely to break out that slump against a Dallas defense that has limited opponents to 30.3 percent from 3-point range in its last four contests.
Mayo hit 5 of 7 from long range on Friday and had his first 20-point game since finishing with 22 at Detroit on March 8.
Vince Carter totaled 22 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against the Nuggets and has 39 points on 54.2 percent shooting in this series. He hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left in a 104-100 win at New Orleans on Feb. 22.
The Mavericks have averaged 102.6 points while winning six of nine on the road.
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